What books should people read? What books should they receive as gifts?
As the holidays approach, a variety of media outlets are offering lists of their "recommended reads" and noteworthy titles. One of the premier lists belongs to the Times Literary Supplement, which presented a list of "Books of the Year" in its late November issue featuring The Letters of Robert Frost, Volume I, 1886-1920, whose key editor is CMC's Robert Faggen.
As Barton Evans and H. Andrea Neves Professor Literature, Faggen in recent years has been one of the primary catalysts — which acclaimed poet Paul Muldoon notes in his recommendation for the TLS — behind the gathering and interpreting of Frost's writing, ranging from his notebooks to his letters to drafts of his poetry.
Regarded as one of the most important English-language poets to arise after World War II, Muldoon is an ideal candidate to celebrate the letters of Frost -- his allusive, often sly poetic voicings share something in common with the trickster mischief in Frost's work, which Faggen often underscores in his classes and books. For Faggen's work, along with his co-editors, Muldoon offers a candid assessment of the value of this particular volume, which is quoted below in full:
The Letters of Robert Frost: Volume I, 1886–1920 (Harvard) is edited by Donald Sheehy, Mark Richardson and, notably, Robert Faggen, the main force behind an ambitious enterprise to contextualize one of the greatest poets of the twentieth or any century. Every page gives up a wealth of information. On December 1, 1915, for example, Frost wrote to George Browne after his wife Elinor’s miscarriage that “We are out of those woods – though perhaps not far enough to feel safe in crowing yet; and we are still six in the family, no more and, thank God, no less”. That same day he wrote to Lascelles Abercrombie to report “we are out of those woods – though perhaps not yet far enough to feel safe in crowing. We are still six in the family, no more and, thank God, no less.” There’s something heartbreaking – as well as something heartening – about Frost’s allowing these words to do double duty. They at once bespeak physical exhaustion and intellectual relief at having found a phrase (“out of the woods”) that would serve him again in a letter to John Bartlett dated to the following day. Out of the woods, or stopping by them, Frost was already well on his way to defining the psychological landscape of many of his most powerful poems.Visit here to read more of the TLS Books of the Year list for 2014. (A user subscription is required for complete access.)